At some point during Shoot Your Heroes Week here at PFC, I had an exchange with Eric Baker in our incestuous comments section that led me to remember the time I crossed the Rann of Kutch in a rickety van in search of the secret temple sacred to the hijras, the notorious eunuchs of India.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton became the one and only hero I’d ever had around page one hundred of Edward Rice’s superlative best-selling biography of him, which I read when it first came out in the early 90s. This is the kind of man I would have tried to become had I been a Victorian with the sort of linguistic and scholarly brilliance with which he was blessed. Burton was a character far more extraordinary than his contemporary Rudyard Kipling in many respects; he didn’t just dream of the Indian subcontinent and the British Raj in poems and novels, he lived it, playing the Great Game to the very edge of brinksmanship with a level of chutzpah I aspire to.
According to Indian Railways I shouldn’t be writing this. It’s not like I’ve ever misbehaved on an Indian train, unless you count the time my mother and I were taking an overnight local from Jaipur to Bikaner—which would be a three-hour drive on American roads—and I was hoisting her up to the top bunk of the sleeper, and she kept falling off, and we were laughing so hard she said, “Oh, no, I think I’ve wet myself,” which meant she had to get down and the whole process was repeated again.
No. The reason Indian Railways doesn’t think I should be writing this is because, according to them, I have been dead for twenty years.
This is, of course, entirely the Raja of Kotwara’s fault. Creepy bastard. I’m not talking about the New Raja, but the old one, the New Raja’s father. I never knew his name because I just called him Raja-sahib like everyone else. But he certainly knew mine.
Perhaps my relentless optimism has finally driven me to a completely delusional state, but I feel there’s a tangible change in the air, a change for the better, like we’re finally turning this old rusted tankard we all live on around.
The Magical Weekend began once upon a time last Friday, when the fairy princess dressed by a dead queen stepped into her carriage and the world smiled in the reflection of her happiness. Princess Kate waved her magic wand, which unfroze our hitherto Fearful Leader from over two years of slumber. As he rose from his sepulcher amidst the briars and shook off the cobwebs, King Barack seized his vorpal sword, strode into the banquet and slew the fruminous Donaldsnatch, after which, with what seemed to be the same stroke, he felled the elusive Osama Bin Jabberwocky.
This is the bit when, after the witch is killed, eternal winter melts away and Narnia kicks into bloom in an explosion of time-lapse foliage. Prancing satyrs like me, until now locked in stone, surge forth once again to roam the hills, making sweet music, drinking wine and chasing other satyrs instead of nymphs.